Sunday, December 12, 2010

Church flower ladies quit after criminal background check....

Cathedral flower ladies quitting over criminal record checks

A volunteer's stand against criminal record checks as prompted several of her supporters to quit, as David Harrison reports.

Annabel Hayter, front, with her supporters Marjorie Corley, Nancy Selwyn and Maureen Polhill, all of whom have quit their roles as florists in protest
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Annabel Hayter, front, with her supporters Marjorie Corley, Nancy Selwyn and Maureen Polhill, all of whom have quit their roles as florists in protest Photo: JAY WILLIAMS
For more than a decade, Annabel Hayter arranged the flowers at Gloucester cathedral, providing her time and talent free to make her church more beautiful.
But earlier this month Mrs Hayter was forced to turn her back on the job she loved and resign as chairman of the cathedral's flower guild after she refused to undergo criminal record checks ordered by cathedral officials.
They said they were concerned that Mrs Hayter and her fellow flower-arrangers – average age around 70 – shared a lavatory with choirboys and said there was a risk of paedophiles infiltrating the guild.
The case has split the close-knit cathedral community, with one of Mrs Hayter's supporters describing it as being like T S Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral. Five other guild members have resigned in protest at the way the mother of four and grandmother of 11 has been treated and others may follow.
Cathedral officials remain unrepentant, claiming that Mrs Hayter's "campaigning activities are incompatible with her role as chairman of the guild".
The row has also highlighted growing concern over the "overzealous" use of Criminal Records Bureau checks, which critics say are deterring and demoralising volunteers across the country.
One campaigner accused cathedral officials of "worshipping procedure and the idea that if you fill in a form or give someone a badge everything will be OK".
Mrs Hayter, 64, said she and her fellow flower-arrangers were "deeply insulted" by the demands for criminal record checks. "It is offensive," she told The Sunday Telegraph. "The people who forced me to resign have had dinner at my house. They know me well. They are showing an incredible lack of trust and common sense.
"The 60 women in the guild are lovely ladies who would not hurt a fly. They are not paedophiles. It is terribly sad but it's also quite pathetic."
Maureen Polhill, 64, who has resigned from the guild over the affair, said: "The cathedral is a beautiful place and it's a shame it's come to this. But Annabel has been treated badly and I support her all the way.
"It's ridiculous that we should be CRB-checked. All the women who work here are mothers and most are grandmothers."
Another supporter, Nancy Selwyn, 75, said: "I've had enough. I've told the canon to take me off the list. These checks are absolute rubbish."
Marjorie Corley, who has resigned after working at the cathedral for 17 years – seven as a flower-arranger and 12 as a tour guide – said: "What makes this all the more absurd is that the choirboys are at school when we are working at the cathedral so even if we did pose a threat we would never see them."

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